The European Elections are coming up fast and due to the ongoing Brexit chaos, the UK will be participating and voting candidates into the European Parliament for the next 5 years on May 23rd. The run-up to the elections has seen both voters and politicians getting frustrated over a lack of progress on Brexit. New parties have emerged to satisfy the demand for alternatives.
The British government was adamant for the longest time that an exit date could be agreed in time for the country to leave the European Union before the elections would take place. A plan that did not come true.
Apart from the elections now playing a part in the British calendar, the delayed Brexit date has also caused new dynamics in the world of Britain’s politics. Frustrated by a lack of progress delivered by what are traditionally the main parties in the United Kingdom, voters have been looking for alternatives. New parties and groups have been created and offer alternative homes for those unhappy with Brexit proceedings.
The last regional elections before the European parliament ones took place on May 2nd. Results saw the main parties lose vast amounts of support, which gave opportunity for entirely new or off-spring parties to launch their own campaigns for the European elections. The two sides of the Brexit debate draw the line around which side of the line the newcomers position themselves.
On the pro-Brexit side, the country has seen the rise of the Brexit party. Leader Nigel Farage previously gained prominence as head of the UK Independence Party, which itself has moved even further to the right recently and is campaigning for "Brexit, and an independent democratic Britain governed under its own laws and by its own parliament and government," as declared in UKIP’s manifesto.
Farage’s Brexit party has been doing well in polls and was called the “favourite with bookmakers and many political commentators to win the most seats in the polls,” by the BBC.
The party has been focusing on the message of wanting to deliver a clean Brexit and continuously highlighted how the UK must leave straight away. The delay of the departure date has repeatedly been called a ‘betrayal’ to voters in the party’s campaign rhetoric. More detailed policies on how that goal would be implemented however, will be left until after the elections, Farage has indicated.
On the other side of the line, parties and groups appeared who do not see Brexit as the way forward for Britain. Pro-Europe or at least pro on another referendum, is what Change UK is campaigning for. The party was founded by former members of both Conservative and Labour, who disagreed with those parties’ respective Brexit policies.
First created as The Independent Group and later rebranded as Change UK – The Independent Group, this new party wants any potential deal to be voted on in a referendum, or "People's Vote". In the accompanying campaign, it would champion to remain in the EU, the party has stated.
The pro-Europe camp also saw a lot of support from the public, when a march, organised to demonstrate for a People’s Vote, gathered over a million people in the streets of London on March 23rd.
The organisers behind the People’s Vote campaign remain a part of Britain’s politics. Supporters are handing out leaflets in the streets, giving an overview of parties who support a People’s Vote, urging people to “vote for a party that backs you getting the final say on Brexit”.
The current government around Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative party tried to deliver a Brexit deal to fulfil the result of the 2016 referendum. May’s deal, which she negotiated with the EU, was rejected by parliament three times and cross-party talks with the opposition Labour party officially ended without finding an alternative compromise on May 17th.
Nonetheless, the government has repeatedly stated any potential Brexit deal should not be subject to a new referendum and that it remains focused on implementing the UK’s exit from the European Union as decided in the 2016 referendum.
Now that UK voters will join the rest of the EU at the polls in May after all, the wildly differing stances on how to proceed over Brexit, remain the dominating issue. Whether parties have announced they would call for a new referendum, an immediate withdrawal or support May’s existing deal, will decide which candidates will be voted into the European Parliament.